Spending Thousands to Earn Hundreds
A self-publishing story…
I plan to be frank as I give you a dollars and cents breakdown of what it cost to self-publish my book, Love, Loss, and Moving On. I will also tell you how much I earned from the book since its publication one year ago on February 3, 2019. If you want the short version: I spent $9810 to sell $460 worth of books.
These numbers are a bit deceiving, so read on if you want the details on:
- Pre-publishing costs
- Publishing costs
- My marketing plan that did not work at all
- The actual books sold/money earned
I will then share some thoughts for future promotion before filling you in on the interesting twist my journey has taken.
Part 1: Pre-Publishing Costs:
I consulted with publishing guru, Jane Friedman — Cost: $300
I started with Jane when I was still pitching the book to agents. She had some good ideas, but none panned out. She encouraged me to launch an author’s website and to become active on social media to “Get My Name Out There” in advance of publishing the book. Since I am an artist with artwork that ties in to the book, she also encouraged me to open an Etsy shop to have a unique way to promote myself. My website and Etsy shop launched in September, 2017.
I hired a website designer — Cost: $1850
My website was created on WordPress. I hear that a lot of people create their own website “easily” on WordPress. My feeling is this: If I wanted to learn a new skill, I would take up the piano, not website design, so I hired a professional to do this work for me.
Since I was already launching an Etsy shop where I could sell my book, I did not contract for a website with a storefront. It would have cost an additional $1000 for that option.
Web hosting is a monthly fee — Cost: $65/month or $788/year
My web guy has a basic hosting fee of $20 and a “no worry” hosting fee of $65. I opted for the more expensive one which came in handy when the European privacy laws — GDPR — came into effect in 2018 and my guy knew all the ins and outs so that I did not have to. This fee also includes full backup, plug-in updates, and security certificates. I am thrilled that I don’t have to worry about any of that.
Help! Now what do I do? — Cost: $100/hour for website consulting as needed.
Whenever I have a website problem, I let my guy fix it. This has amounted to another $2000 during the years 2017–2019.
Here’s the website if you want to have a look-see. LorieKleinerEckert.com. Be forewarned that a lot has changed in my career since its launch in September 2107 and so an update is currently in progress. (Yes, the web guy is hearing, “Cha-ching!”)
Do I beat myself up for spending this money?
Heck no! I have mastered many new skills in these 24 months, even if building a website is not one of them. One person can only accomplish so much. Here’s what I have accomplished:
- I know how to make updates on WordPress and how to write and post blogs there.
- My blogs are slice of life essays that average 900 words. I have written 80 of them.
- I know how to use MailChimp for newsletter creation and for blog distribution.
- I also know how to use Medium for blog distribution.
- I know the ins and outs of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. (I’ve tried and failed miserably on Pinterest.)
- I know how to use Buffer to schedule posts on social media to Get My Name Out There.
- I know how to use Pablo to create posts for social media to Get My Name Out There.
- I know how to use Canva to create posts for social media to Get My Name Out There .
- I Got My Name Out There with motivational messages six days a week for over two years. To date there are 803 posts. They are easiest to see on Instagram, but they were also posted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
(In regard to expenses, please note that I pay $10/month for my account on Buffer so add another $240 to my expenses over the last two years.)
Here are some samples of my motivational messages:
Part 2: Publishing Costs:
At long last, it was time to publish. I’ve said something like this before, but let me restate it: If I wanted to learn a new skill, I would take up bread-baking, not book publishing, so I decided to hire a professional to do this work for me.
At first, I looked to companies that Jane Friedman mentioned on her website. Ultimately, I got very scary quotes from two companies for full services from editing to marketing.
- Girl Friday Productions — $18,077.29
- Radius Book Group — $15,300.00
Unable to afford that, a friend of a friend suggested I contact Jennifer Scroggins. Jennifer works a full-time job with an independent book publisher that specializes in nonfiction. Thus, she has a lot of experience creating and promoting books like mine, not to mention a side gig where she helps people like me. With her guidance, I chose Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). She also led me to a great book cover designer, Mark Sullivan.
I used Jennifer and Mark’s help to create both a paperback and an eBook version of Love, Loss, and Moving On — Total cost $3933
It breaks down as follows:
- Editing of the manuscript — $600
- Formatting the eBook and getting everything uploaded to Amazon — $750
- Cover design + design of the paperback interior — $1800
- Logo design for my publishing company, RoseWK Publishing — $250
- ISBN cost — $258
- Fixing a glitch on uploading the manuscript to Amazon — $275
Please note, pep talks and encouragement from Jennifer were invaluable but free.
Want to see what I got for my cover design expense?
First let me tell you this: My book tells the story of how I used my crush on British actor, Bill Nighy, as a crutch to get past the loss of a loved one. What happened is this, I wrote Bill Nighy a fan letter and he wrote back! Not only did he write back, but he sprinkled his letter with three X’s, the international sign of a kiss! I thought he was experiencing “love at first write,” so I wrote him back just a few more times. I also did a lot of writing in a journal during the period, as I processed the death of my significant other. All of this is documented in the book. Hence Mark Sullivan picked up on journaling and writing letters for his design. Here are the four book covers he proposed. I chose the first one. Since I did my fair share of drinking in the book, I love that the letter “O” in “On” is tipsy…
Part 3: My marketing plan that did not work at all:
My approach to promoting, Love, Loss, and Moving On, was two-pronged. Yes, of course I tried to get publicity from journalists and book bloggers, but my larger emphasis was to build a worldwide following and sell to that base.
Simply put, I was enthralled with the opportunities inherent in the Internet. As a friend and I often said to each other, “If you have 1,000,000 followers and sell your product to just one percent of them, you have sold 10,000 items!” The problem with this thinking is that you have to accumulate all those followers.
This is what I did to build that base:
1) I Got My Name Out There by posting six days a week on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest). Using the 80/20 rule, the plan was that 80% of the time I would put up generic motivational messages and 20% of the time I would more actively promote my book.
My modus operandi in all my professional work — Love, Loss, and Moving On included — is to be a cheerleader to my readers. My basic message is this: Life is difficult, but you can handle it! Over a two-year period, I created 803 posts to cheer my followers on their way. You’ve seen a few of them already, here are a few more.
2) I Got My Name Out There by writing blogs for my website — 80 of them. Thanks to Jennifer’s instruction, I learned to put a promotional blurb at the bottom of each story: “If you like my blogs, you will LOVE my new book!”
3) I Got My Name Out There by writing 9 quarterly Newsletters for my website. — I very openly advertise my book to newsletter readers. I also ask them to forward my newsletter to friends to grow my subscriber list.
4) I Got My Name Out There by posting links to my blogs and newsletters on all social media platforms.
This chart shows how my following grew — on various platforms — over more than two years’ time. I am grateful to currently have 10,176 followers, but this number is 989,824 short of the 1,000,000 I was aiming for.
Part 3, continued: More of my marketing plan:
I tried to get publicity from journalists and book bloggers with Jennifer Scroggins’ help and through my own efforts.
Thanks to Jennifer’s day job, she had lots of resources at her fingertips. I hired her to:
- Market my book to her extensive database of book bloggers who specialize in nonfiction/memoir in the United States — $500
- Market my book to 200+ local libraries in the greater Ohio area (this is where she and I live) — $200
Results? To my knowledge, no libraries ordered my book. As for the bloggers, 20 requested review copies, but I do not believe any wrote a review, or at least no reviews showed up on Amazon. However, by agreeing to receive a review copy, they also agreed to be on my blog’s mailing list, so I got 20 new subscribers.
Jennifer did, however, have one fabulous success. She got an excerpt of my book published on the PBS online magazine, Next Avenue!
I took the rest of the book marketing upon myself. As you will recall, in Love, Loss, and Moving On I use my crush on British actor, Bill Nighy, as a crutch to get over the loss of a loved one. Thus, while Jennifer notified people in the US about my book, I handled the UK.
1) I Googled the 100 top book bloggers in the UK, researched all of them, and contacted those in my genre. Many had specific submission requirements akin to submitting a book proposal to an agent. (Argh!)
2) I Googled all independent book stores in the UK and I contacted them — multiple times.
3) I contacted every journalist who wrote about Bill Nighy — in the past and in the present — trying to make them understand the newsworthy-ness of the fact that thanks to me he is the romantic lead in a full-length book! What other actor can boast of that?
Results? I got one review on Rosie Amber’s Book Blog, which is #36 in the top 100. She has various team members and it was Liz Lloyd who reviewed my book. Click here to read it.
I am inordinately grateful for her lovely review.
Part 4: Books Sold and Money Earned
Book sale totals after one year (February 3, 2019 — February 3, 2020)
- eBooks sold: 66
- Paperbacks sold: 59
- KENP*: 1899 pages
*KENP stands for Kindle Edition Normalize Pages. Here’s what it means: Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon. It has a monthly fee of $9.99 per month. This subscription allows the reader to read an unlimited number of eBooks each month. To compensate authors for this program, Amazon pays for the number of pages that were actually read from your book.
Income/Royalties received from these sales:
- From the Unites States: $441.81
- From the UK: $11.18
- From Canada: $5.49
- From Australia: $2.56
How are royalties calculated?
- Just so you know, my eBook sells for $2.99 and my paperback for $18.95.
- On Kindle Direct Publishing, if your eBook costs $2.99 or above, you earn a 70% royalty on sales. If it is less than $2.99, you earn 35% royalty. Thus, I make $2.09 per eBook.
- You earn a 60% royalty on paperbacks minus the printing cost of each book. In my case, I earn $6.42 per book.
Author Copies –
- It is possible to purchase “Author Copies” at cost. But these sales do not receive royalty payments nor do they figure into the number of books sold. My cost per book is $4.95. I cannot use my Amazon Prime for free shipping on these, plus I have to pay sales tax, bringing the cost of each book up to $6.16.
- I have purchased and distributed 53 books during the year.
As dismal as these numbers are, they are actually what is to be expected.
Statistically speaking, I should sell my product to 1% of my followers. I have been very fortunate to amass 10,000 followers since I started to Get My Name Out There in September 2017, which is fabulous, but 1% of this number is 100 books. However, I also have that Etsy shop, which I have equally been promoting, and I have 91 sales there (since 2017). So, I’ve sold to more than 2% of my audience which is terrific, statistically speaking. The problem is, it doesn’t put much money in my pocket.
Here are some other painful things to consider:
- It is possible to check your KDP dashboard every second of every day. This creates a lot of pain when no books sell minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day.
- KENP can also be painful when someone reads only one page of your book and then stops.
- And you quickly learn there is no resting on your laurels in self-publishing. You know how a Facebook post has a 24-hour shelf life? Whether you are telling the world that you won the Nobel Prize or that you had eggs for breakfast, your story gets seen for a day and then it’s pretty much over. The same is true for book sales. If you did nothing TODAY to sell a book, you will sell no books TODAY. It’s just a tad exhausting.
Part 5— Future Promotion Plans:
If you wonder if I have done any paid advertising, I have only started down this road.
- I have boosted promotional posts on Facebook
- I have run an ad on Facebook
These are such easy things to do! And they are fun to do too! But they sold no books. Nada. Nil. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Currently, I am looking into email marketing companies that sell eBooks at greatly reduced prices ($.99). Here are some of the many that exist. They appear in the order in which I plan to try them:
- KDP Countdown Deals
- The Fussy Librarian
Part 6— The Happy Surprise from the Self-Publishing Experience:
After writing Love, Loss, and Moving On, I spent almost two years trying to sell it to an agent. I wrote query after query, each with its own tailor-made book proposal per the agent’s submission guidelines. Of course, most agents did not bother to respond. The process was exhausting and demoralizing, assuring that queries were all I wrote during that time.
And then I started the self-publishing journey and created my website. The web designer told me I needed to write a couple blogs a month in order to bring people to the website regularly. This was mind boggling! I hadn’t written in ages! What on earth would I write? But I followed his instructions, started to write daily, and two years later, I have written 80 blogs.
This is where the story gets interesting. While I have not earned a lot of money selling my book this past year, I have earned money.
- A community press newspaper found my work and they have paid to publish 24 of the blogs from my website.
- Additionally, an online company, Worthy.com, approached me to write blogs specifically for them. Of those 80 blogs I mentioned above, 52 were for my website and 28 for Worthy.
- My income from these two sources (since the inception of my website in September, 2017) comes to $7000.
Here, then, is the great irony of my book publishing journey: My goal was to Get My Name Out There for the purpose of selling my book, and instead I Got My Name Out There for the purpose of selling my writing.
This sounds like a writer’s dream come true, even if I haven’t yet recouped all my publishing expenses.
As I move into year #2 post-publication, I am grateful to find myself with three income streams — the book, the blog, and the Etsy shop. I’m even more grateful to find that this book publishing journey caused my writing to flow again. With these four pieces in place, I am eager to see where the next year takes me!
Note: This story is a part of #500Race on Twitter — @cre8tivepub